Organifarms has been developing BERRY for almost two years. The harvesting robot was presented for the first time at Greentech in Amsterdam. BERRY is now ready for order. A behind-the-scenes interview with the founding team.
How did the idea for Berry come about?
Dominik: “When we met at a hackathon, we were sure that we wanted to create something with an impact on sustainability. After we found out what great of an impact agriculture has, we decided to start here.”
Why did you choose strawberries?
Dominik: “At first, we thought about a harvesting robot for vertical farming – but then quickly realized that this market is not yet mature. Here, strawberries are called the plants of the future, but there are not many farms yet where they are actually already being cultivated. That’s why we decided to focus on greenhouses first. Because there is a need for action here, especially when we look at the working conditions.”
That’s why BERRY can now only be used for greenhouses?
Dominik: “No, that’s the good thing – our technology is relatively easy to use for other environments as well – especially for vertical cultivation. You have to consider that the robot can, for example, be stationary here, and the plants travel to it and are harvested there.”
What specifics did you find in the agriculture industry when you developed and introduced your product?
Mario: “In agriculture, we are dealing with an industry that is very diverse. On the one hand, fields are still being farmed by the farmer, just like 50 years ago – and it works! And on the other hand, we are talking about vertical farming and future technologies – the balance between a functioning product and a vision of the future has to be right.”
When is this balance right?
Mario: “When the product, on the one hand, is promising and modern, but on the other hand can also be integrated into existing processes – and that already now, and not in 10 years’ time. That’s exactly what we can do with BERRY. He can be easily integrated into greenhouse workflows, requires hardly any technical knowledge on the part of the farmer, and yet is a fundamental innovation.”
Speaking about a vision of the future: For some farmers, investing in a harvesting robot may be too high – or too uncertain. How do you ensure that the required trust is created here?
Hannah: “Right from the start, we made sure that we always included farmers and our target groups. For one, to keep ourselves up to date with their needs and wishes. But also to show them that we develop quickly and agilely, that we listen to them and that the product is developed close to their reality.”
Mario Schäfer presenting BERRY at GreenTech in Amsterdam
Let’s take a look at the technology – Marian, what was the biggest hurdle in developing the robot?
Marian: “I would say the basic system – it’s not for nothing that there is hardly any technology yet that automates the harvesting of berries and soft fruits. Getting to know the peculiarities of the plants, understanding them, and learning about the processes of farming were big parts of our work in the first few months. It was also important to us that BERRY is a long-lasting and sustainable technology – and I think we succeeded.”
How do you perceive the interest in your idea?
Dominik: “We are very happy about the attention that we and BERRY have already received in the past weeks and months. We have already received a lot of positive feedback. This also coincides with a growing interest from investors in the AgTech sector because there is still a lot of automation and innovation potential here. And now we are looking forward to taking the first orders.”
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